Bluey is not a happy camper

Kiwis coach Brian McClennan has reacted angrily after Bradford winger Lesley Vainikolo was forced out of the British leg of the Tri-Nations for the second year in a row.

Vainikolo underwent knee surgery at the direction of his club, with the Kiwis were only informed of his unavailability a matter of hours before he went under the knife.

"We found out last night that Les had to have a knee operation this morning and obviously we are very disappointed," McClennan said.

"What is really disappointing is that there is supposed to be a process and that process has not been followed.

"Bradford should have liaised with us and our doctor should have had the chance to have a look at him. He never got the chance to do that.

"Les may play for Bradford but he is a Kiwi and we are the international team here.

"Surely we have the right to assess our own players? The New Zealand Rugby League will be contacting Bradford to express our disappointment."

The storm over Vainikolo was lessened somewhat by news that Stacey Jones would join the Kiwis camp for Saturday's test against Great Britain here.

The test will probably be the last for the great halfback.

But the loss of Vainikolo, the Super League's most destructive player, is a major blow for the Kiwis.

Vainikolo had been in rampaging form, scoring 20 tries in his final 10 matches of the season - including a record six in one match against Hull - to lead Bradford to the title.

Great Britain coach Brian Noble, a former Lions captain who is also Vainikolo's club coach at Bradford, dismissed suggestions there was an element of skulduggery behind the winger's withdrawal.

"That's ridiculous," Noble said.

"I'm flabbergasted that people could suggest that sort of thing, especially about myself.

"I want Lesley Vainikolo to play and I want Andrew Johns and Paul Sculthorpe to play.

"This is the best against the best and we are up for the challenge. The intimation that I would do something like that infuriates me. It is an insult."

The 109kg winger has scored 14 tries in just 12 test appearances but has faced Great Britain only once after being forced to withdraw in similar circumstances last year.

Noble also scoffed at suggestions the move had been deliberately timed to upset the tourists' plans.

"The club have every right to pull him out if he needs surgery and the fact that he has had surgery suggests that he needed it," he said.

"The bloke that has done the surgery is one of the blokes New Zealand rely upon for their orthopaedic advice when they are over here. They should ring him."

No decision had yet been made as to whether a replacement would be called in, McClennan said.

"We are still just setting up camp here. We'll have a meeting and look at the prospects soon."

More info: www.tri-nations.com.au Discussion: Tri-Nations Forum at http://forums.leagueunlimited.com/forumdisplay.php?f=130